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What is a scam?

A scam is a dishonest scheme used by criminals to trick people out of their money. Scammers want to ger their hands on your personal details (such as name, address, passwords, account numbers and  date of birth) as they provide a route to your cash. Stealing personal details is known as ID fraud. With this information, it’s possible for fraudsters to take money from your bank, go on a spending spree with your cards, open new accounts in your name or even make false insurance claims.

Scammers might be individuals or they might be part of an organised gang. They are convincing and will make their scam sound plausible. Falling prey to scammers is no fault of your own, but it is important that you are aware of the most common types of scams so you can reduce the likelihood of it happening to you.

Most common types of scams

  • Promising a gift of some kind and asking you to part with a small amount of cash to secure your gift.
  • Befriending you then convincing you to part with money to help them out of a tricky situation
  • Selling a product or service that never materialises
  • Tricking their way into your home so that they can steal cash or valuables
  • Impersonating a trusted organisation – such as your bank, utility company, the police or a government department – to trick you into giving out personal information.
  • TV licence scams are on the rise since the laws changed regarding TV licences for the over 75s. Be aware that TV licence companies will never visit you at home to ask you to set up a payment plan.

Scammers might get in touch using a variety of different methods

  • Phone (calls and texts)
  • Post
  • In person/on the doorstep
  • Online (websites and emails)

Sadly the pandemic has triggered a number of scams that affect people of all ages. However with older people more likely to be home in the day, this group is at a higher risk of falling prey to scammers.

Covid specific scams

  • Criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
  • Doorstep cleaning services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Email scams that appear to be offering information about people in the local area who are affected by Coronavirus. Scammers trick people into opening malicious attachments which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk.
  • As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank or utility company.
  • Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips due to the pandemic. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.
  • There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.

Help and support

If you or someone else is in immediate danger because of a scam (for example, being threatened by an aggressive doorstep caller), call the Police on 999.

REPORT: Action Fraud

Action Fraud is the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime where you should report fraud if you have spotted a scam or have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber-crime.

You can visit the website or call Action Fraud on 0300 123 20 40.

If you’re unsure and want to discuss this with our team please contact our Information & Advice service on 020 7837 3777 or email and one of our advisors will be able to support you.

For more information on scams, what to look out for and how to prevent it happening to you please read this Age UK guide on Avoiding Scams